Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga backtracked on Thursday on announcing the reopening of schools, saying she needed more time to consult with MECs.
Earlier this week, Motshekga released a statement saying she had met with the teachers’ unions and relevant stakeholders ahead of outlying “details that include the final dates and detailed plans for the phased approach to the possible reopening of schools”.
Several unions had misgivings over her perceived rush to reopen schools before assessing the practicalities, or risk “damage to the reputation of the education system”.
Motshekga said that in a meeting on Monday, several provinces reported to still be at various stages of readiness and asked for more time as they waited for deliveries of personal protection equipment for staff.
“We agreed that one week is needed to finalise So on Monday we will reconvene to consider progress made and then report to the public on the state of readiness,” she said.
“A lot of work has happened and we are happy with the progress reported in the last meeting, but we need confirmation of deliveries that provinces were waiting for.”
The delays in the delivery of personal protection equipment has been attributed to challenges and cancellations with suppliers, Motshekga added.
“Various provinces had to find new suppliers to deliver the material this week. In the meeting on Monday, we will receive a full report which we can then share with the public.
“We will also use the meeting to table President Cyril Ramaphosa’s address which is also important for our planning purposes,” she said.
The SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu), National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA (Naptosa), National Teachers Union (Natu), Professional Educators Union, and the SA Onderwysunie have agreed on Monday for school management teams to report back.
Sadtu general secretary Mugwena Maluleke said: “This (report) relates to the cleaning and disinfecting the schools, and the delivery of the personal protection equipment in compliance with Covid-19 regulations.”
Basil Manuel, executive director for Naptosa, said the unions told Motshekga that even those provinces claiming to be ready to reopen schools were not.
They have agreed to use this week to allow all provinces to comply with the “non-negotiables” required to protect its members, he added.
“To avoid confusion, we agreed that the schools must be having the essentials.”
Natu president Alan Tomson added: “Principals may be requested during this week to receive the essentials and report on progress in relation to the cleaning and disinfecting of the schools.”
The department’s director-general, Mathanzima Mweli, said that the implementation of its risk-based differentiated approach to reopening schools would be assisted by Ramaphosa’s address on Wednesday.
“Nobody has experience in managing a crisis of this magnitude so we follow expert advice. That is why we need to be extremely careful how we proceed in every step,” Mweli said.
Meanwhile, Education MEC Debbie Schäfer told parents who applied for 2021 school attendance this year, and who had expected to hear back by this weekend, that the process was disrupted because of “the unprecedented school closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic”.
“Accordingly, the Western Cape Education Department has revised the dates on which parents can expect to hear the outcome of their applications.”
She said parents will be informed via by email or SMS between June 12 and June 22, adding: “If their child has been offered a place at a school in this time, parents will need to confirm their acceptance by July 3.”